For a gigging guitarist looking for a tube-sounding amplifier that’s versatile and won’t break your back (or wallet), it’s hard to beat the Tech 21 Trademark 60.
When Tech 21 founder Andrew Barta introduced the original Sansamp in 1989, he immediately gained a large cadre of followers. Emulation of tube amps had long been the holy grail in guitar effects, and it appeared that Barta had finally done it. While the debate continues, many people still swear by Tech 21 and their crop of amp-emulators and effects.
It didn’t take too long for guitar players to use the original Sansamp as a guitar amplifier replacement. Eventually, Tech 21 decided to incorporate Sansamp technology into a portable combo amplifier, and the Trademark 60 was born. Like the original Sansamp, the combo has a loyal legion of followers. Let’s see what all the fuss is about.
The Tech 21 Trademark 60 is a 60 watt combo amplifier featuring a single 12″ speaker. A two channel amplifier, the first channel is designed to emulate a wide range of Fender-style amplifiers, from sparkling clean to saturated Tweed. it features controls for Drive, Level, and Punch (which controls mid-range break-up). A “Bite” button also adds more high-end punch and low-end definition. Channel two is the dirty channel, emulating classic Marshall, Vox, and Mesa/Boogie sounds. Here are controls for Drive, Level, and “Growl,” which is a lead-based midrange control focused on scooped mid sounds.
The Trademark 60 also features master controls reverb and EQ (low and high). The master EQ section is designed to help “tune” the amplifier to different rooms and venues. A boost section is also available, allowing up to 9db boost for solos if needed. You can also link the reverb to the footswitchable boost, which allows a much different tone for solos if needed. An effects loop is standard and allows connection of both pedal and rack effects. Finally, the amplifier features an XLR direct out that uses patented Sansamp technology to deliver the full sound of the amplifier without the hassle involved in micing. The XLR is a mic-level -20dB output.
Having used a Trademark 60 as one of my main gigging amps for 10 years, I’m in a pretty strong position to discuss its many strengths and few weaknesses. Let’s go ahead and talk about the good stuff.
The bottom line is that the Trademark 60 does an A+ job in capturing the basic sounds of Fender, Marshall, Vox, and Mesa/Boogie amplifiers. No digital modeling here. The incldued Sansamp technology is warm, analog technology at its best. Does it sound 100% like the amps it emulates? Of course not. But does it really matter? It’s so close to perfection, though, that you’re able to concentrate on the music and not worry about the technology.
The best compliment I can give the amp is that it sounds like a quality tube amp on its own merits. It also does an excellent job in capturing the warm break-up of a not-too-compressed tube amp. It’s easy for solid state amps to do heavy distortion, but blues and fusion sounds are a lot harder to grasp. This amp can sound like Stevie Ray, Larry Carlton, Brian May, or Eddie Van Halen with just a few twists and turns. Unless you just need the added machismo of a full 4×12 stack, this could be the ultimate gigging amplifier.
It’s not perfect. The controls are a bit confusing at first, so make sure you spend some time with the amplifier first. It would also be nice to have separate low and high controls for each channel, but these are just niggles. This amp could be used for country, blues, rock, jazz, and metal easily. For me, the icing on the cake is that it only weighs 36 lbs and includes a Sansamp XLR output. It’s definitely a keeper.
With all the talk these days about amplifier “modeling,” Tech 21 has nailed the sound and feel of tube amplification with “old fashioned” analog circuitry. While it may not be a 100% emulation, the Tech 21 Trademark 60 is pretty darn close. When you consider all the other factors – amplifier cost, replacement tube cost, amplifier weight – the Trademark 60 is definitely a winner. For a gigging guitarist looking for a tube-sounding amplifier that’s versatile and won’t break your back (or wallet), it’s hard to beat the Tech 21 Trademark 60.
Name of Gear: Tech 21 Trademark 60 Combo Amplifier
List Price: $805.00
Manufacturer Info: Tech 21 USA; tech21nyc.com
Pros: Incredible value; excellent array of sounds; reliable; easy to transport
Cons: Controls can be a bit confusing at first